11:22 AM

UHD Serves as Charter Member of State-wide Organization, LEAP Texas

leapTexas has recently become the 10th and newest state partner in the Association of American Colleges and Universities' "Liberal Education and America's Promise" (LEAP) program and UHD is one of the charter members of this organization. Pat Williams, Associate Vice President for Planning and Institutional Effectiveness, was also recently elected to the organizations' board of directors.

More than 60 public and private colleges and universities have signed on to "LEAP Texas" as a means of providing a structure through which they can communicate, organize and develop plans and policy recommendations that address their common interests of student success and the improvement of higher education in the state.

The LEAP Texas coalition has a common purpose and is committed to the fundamental principles of the LEAP initiative. Texas institutions are in a challenging context that includes multiple institutional structures and systems, an increasingly diverse and growing student population, increasing demands for accountability, the state's new core curriculum for higher education, and a period of rapidly changing technology and globalization. LEAP Texas sees the opportunity for significant large-scale collaboration to address these challenges.

"Students at Texas higher education institutions must attain certain critical skills for future success in the workplace and throughout life," said Raymund Paredes, Commissioner of Higher Education. "Strong communication, the ability to work well within a team, critical thinking skills, as well as other competences have been identified in the new Texas Core Curriculum for Higher Education as being crucial to success. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and LEAP Texas are aligned in our efforts to identify higher education learning outcomes that not only improve completion and productivity rates within higher education and the workforce, but also enhance and inspire the quality of students' learning."

With more than 60 institutions involved to date, the LEAP Texas initiative has great potential for growth and action. LEAP Texas is a collaborative of 34 public two-year colleges, 23 universities of varying missions, four research flagships, and a private institution with the capacity to reach almost 900,000 students. LEAP Texas will be unique. LEAP Texas is not driven by a particular institution, system of institutions, or a state office. It is a collection of institutions with common issues and shared purpose. Administratively, LEAP Texas is currently housed at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Future administrative oversight will be guided by the elected leadership.

LEAP Texas is committed to:

  • Upholding the commitment of faculty across our various institutions— to provide a strong educational foundation for an increasingly diverse student body—one that prepares them for work and citizenship in the twenty-first century, well aligned with stated goals of employers
  • Adhering to the required Texas Core Curriculum for Higher Education, facilitating rigor and transferability, within a context of innovation
  • Responding to the increasing national focus on student learning outcomes; and
  • Applying the scholarship of teaching and learning

Moving forward, the LEAP Texas initiative will initially focus on three key areas:

  1. Leveraging the newly redesigned Texas Core Curriculum for Higher Education (largely informed by the LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes) for the overall improvement in undergraduate education.
  2. Creating a capacity for large-scale, inter-institutional collaboration in robust and authentic assessment.
  3. Embedding high-impact practices in the undergraduate curriculum.

As with many states, the establishment of learning outcomes and their assessment are critical expectations of Texas institutions, University Systems, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The new Texas Core Curriculum for Higher Education, developed by Texas faculty and administrators, updates the state-mandated academic core to ensure students receive the essential knowledge and skills they need to be successful in college, in a career, and in life. With it expected to be in place by the fall of 2014, assessment of the Core's learning outcomes will be essential. As a result, LEAP Texas has discussed adopting authentic assessment of the new Texas Core Curriculum for Higher Education as its first large-scale collaborative project and establishing LEAP Texas as the leader for these assessment efforts.

Loraine Phillips, newly elected Chair of LEAP Texas, said, "I am excited about the state's new emphasis on delivering essential learning outcomes through the new Core Curriculum, and I look forward to working with faculty and others across the state in carefully considering the quality of student learning and attainment for higher education in Texas."